Starring: Marlon Brando, Mary Murphy, Robert Keith
Director: Laslo Benedek
Running Time: 79 mins
The Wild One is an American film about a biker gang that arrives in a small rural town and causes havoc, whilst the arrival of their rivals on the same patch creates even more chaos. Meanwhile, the young leader of the gang begins to form a strong attachment to a young barmaid.
This is a pretty rebellious and dramatic film by 1950s standards, and it definitely deserves credit for showing violence a lot more clearly than was really acceptable in those days. However, it’s now a little dated, and is not really at all threatening or exhilarating, just a little toned-down.
On the one hand, the continual presence of the scores of bikers in this small town is tense to watch, particularly in the sequences where it’s clear that something is about to kick off, because you know the extreme damage and chaos that’s going to result.
On the other hand, the bikers aren’t particularly scary. Again, in the early 1950s, biker gangs were massive, and extremely powerful, so viewers back then saw it as a very real and threatening possibility, therefore making this film, where bikers just sit outside your house, a nightmare come to life. Nowadays, however, the gangs are much smaller, and the police normally have tabs on them, so it’s not a reality that anybody can believe too well, making it seem just a little bit weak.
Moving away from that, the performances in this film are pretty decent. Marlon Brando, who plays the cool, young leader of the gang, is very suave and likeable despite his ‘outlaw’ status, whilst the woman who plays the barmaid that he inevitably is smitten by, Mary Murphy, is also very calm and collected, and does a good job at being a strong female character who resists heartthrob Brando’s charms, something quite uncharacteristic for the early 1950s.
However, despite the two leads giving good performances, their chemistry on screen didn’t seem to click, and the strength of their relationship seems a little weak, meaning that you’re never really willing them on to be together, and instead you’re just indifferent as to what happens to them.
Overall, I’ll give this a 6.6, because despite its clearly shocking and rebellious nature in its day, this is quite a dated film that has little strong peril or a convincing plot.